The New Ipswich Planning Board’s new proposed driveway regulations would bring them in line with state law, although at least one local developer said the regulations could significantly increase the cost of homeowners.
The planning authority met last week for a public hearing on the proposed driveway regulations, which the authority is allowed to pass without a vote in the city. After hearing from several people during its meeting on Thursday, the board finally voted to hold a second hearing on the matter, scheduled for February 17, to get more feedback from residents.
Planning authority chairman John Schaumloffel said the planning authority has been working on driveway regulations for nearly two years after the city found it doesn’t have specific driveway regulations as required by state law. Some regulations existed in the city’s zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations, but not as separate rules, he said. And despite claims that the rules are inconsistent with other communities, Schaumloffel said that’s where most of them come from – according to other city regulations and state law. Some, he said, are stricter and broader than what the board ultimately set out.
The regulations, if enacted, would require an entry permit for every newly built driveway granted by the Select Board. The applicants would have to prove that the driveway has no impact on a wetland or provide an exemption from the city zoning authority. The city would have to inspect the completed driveway and issue a certificate of conformity for the driveway.
The standards, which are a total of nine sides, also set standards like width – no less than 10 feet and no more than 25 feet at the entrance – that it is as close to a right angle to the street as possible, and that it is should be built to divert the water runoff away from the street.
Additional regulations stipulate that passages must have a diameter of at least 15 inches and a maximum degree of 15 percent, if necessary, in order to ensure public safety and access for emergency vehicles.
For entrances with a slope greater than 10 percent, the owner must erect a 20 foot landing at the entrance or provide a drainage plan from a licensed engineer.
Scoop said the passage regulation and landing area both have to do with water drainage control and safety. Some regulations the board was reviewing for other communities required larger landings, but the board took into account the average size of the vehicles and landed at 20 feet as a compromise, he said.
Engineering plans may be required for the Select Board, especially for driveways that have inclines greater than 10 percent, inclines greater than 15 percent, or driveways greater than 100 feet.
New Ipswich’s Kenny Lehtonen II, a developer and real estate agent who builds about 25 homes in New Hampshire each year, said the proposed regulations were stricter than usual, too broad and could be prohibitively expensive.
“They want a lot of power and authority over what people do,” Lehtonen said
Lehtonen said in his construction experience that some of the proposed regulations will not always be workable. He said the better approach is to have more general rules and give the city’s road officer the power to decide what steps need to be taken to ensure safety.
For example, the regulation, which requires a wide, flat landing for driveways with a slope greater than 10 percent, would have increased the cost of a recent New Ipswich home by $ 30,000 to $ 40,000 to build driveways because of the amount of Filling that should have been brought.
“That’s outrageous for a single family home,” he said.
Lehtonen said 15-inch passage is also not possible in many cases, and a large segment of applicants must immediately take the additional step to get an exemption from the city.
“What it really has to be is that the Road Commissioner or the Director of the Public Works Department examine each situation on a case-by-case basis. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, ”said Lehtonen. “It’s not done like this in any other city I work in.”
Schaumloffel said the city has a process for situations where the ordinance is an undue financial burden – developers can request a hardship waiver.
Schaumloffel said the board was taking into account the feedback it received last week and continued the hearing after receiving comments from the public for more than two hours. The Board plans to continue to receive feedback during its ongoing hearing and may either continue the hearing, make further changes to the regulations, or vote on the adoption of the regulations as they are now or as amended.
The planning board is expected to meet on February 17th at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom. For credentials, go to townofnewipswich.com. A full copy of the proposed driveway rules is also available on the city’s website.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or email@example.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.